|Label:||Temporary Residence Limited|
2010 was the year that post rock had to accept that it was popular. While bands specialising in instrumental crescendos have always pictured themselves outside of the mainstream, 2010 provided us with undeniable proof that this “no-vocals” business did have commercial approval.
I mean, heavyweights of the genre were doing really impressive things! Mogwai were releasing a live album and a film that opened at several film festivals. Godspeed You! Black Emperor were selling out decent sized venues, with tickets being sneakily sold for £75 on the night- as I know from bitter experience. These are not the kind of things that small bands do, so congratulations, Post-rock! You're now a popular genre.
However, the trouble when a genre gets mainstream acceptance is the worry that it will go stale - just look at how many dull dubstep remixes surfaced after it got written about in the Guardian- and there are more than a few detractors of post-rock who would claim the post-rock sound became formulaic and predictable some time ago.
Fortunately, this has lead to bands stepping their game up in 2011. Mogwai released an album that referenced everything from krautrock to tropical music and Vessels turned there fragile soundscapes into muscular math-prog rock sessions. So what have Grails done? Having being permanently on the more psychedelic side of post-rock, simply adding weirder distortion to the same old riffs wouldn't cut it, so Grails have crafted a more intricate and darker sound altogether on "Deep Politics".
Opener “Future Primitive” perfectly sums up this approach. With a slow place and swirling eastern-influenced string section, the nearest reference point you can think of is Led Zeppelin, although the pomp and flashiness is here traded for a lingering sense of dread. This dread lasts throughout the album and makes it a very haunting listen.
Elsewhere songs rumble along with nothing but the afore-mentioned strings and some rhythmic, almost jazzy stabs of electric piano like on “Daughters of Bilitis”. This may be seen as a step backwards to those who enjoyed the grisly, almost-metal of Grails' last album “Doomsdayer's Holiday”, but as those who enjoy Six Organs of Admittance's drone-ier moments can attest, heaviness isn't just found in levels of distortion but also in ringing, ominous chords and repetitive acoustic finger picking, which "Deep Politics" has plenty of, up its dark sleeve.
Whilst this penchant for putting atmosphere at the forefront may alienate some people who come the album expecting all-riffs, it ultimately makes for more rewarding repeat listening. The spiralling guitar coda is barely audible on your first listen of “Almost Grew My Hair” but after a while it becomes the possibly most hypnotic section on the entire album- and that's saying something on an album that's so entrancing.
Posted: Mon 27 June 2011